A Powerful Decision

 

If we think we are allowed to modify and decorate our bodies in some ways but not in others, and we continue to judge ourselves and one another for doing so, we are a confused lot.

If you ask me.

If you ask me, my body is the vessel that protects my tender center while my tender center does deep and powerful and soulful work.

My body is a vehicle that allows me to move through this lifetime having a human experience. It is an incredible vessel but it is changing matter. Untangling shame around allowing myself to acknowledge this, and allowing myself to be seen as a multidimensional being has been both terrible and wonderful.

I am happier and more comfortable in my body since I started emancipating myself from societal expectations of what it is supposed to look like. I felt a violation to the core of my spirit when I was stripped of everything that I thought made me physically whole. No one ever told me that I was allowed to be happy without these things. My self love is radical because the very existence of it does not fit into the formula I was given to measure my self worth.

My self love is radical because I went against oppressive shame and unreasonable expectation. I got curious. I questioned. I dropped in. And from the depths of despair and confusion I made a powerful and empowering decision. It was to celebrate myself, to bravely explore the multidimensionality of my being.

I have often thought of my experience as a balding woman as a kind of social experiment. I have noted the differences in how I am received wearing hair vs not wearing hair. Presenting bald with makeup vs bald with no makeup. The verdict: The difference is vibrational. Meaning, the way I feel about how I present directly affects the way I am perceived by others. I can elicit pity or awe or wonder and mad respect. I can attract the attention of everyone around me or become virtually invisible in a crowd. It makes me shake my head a little when another woman comments on my (no) hairstyle and tells me that she would love it if she could get away with shaving her head, but she is not pretty enough, her head is shaped weird, her body is too big, or her head is too small, etc and so on. I say “thank you” but what I really want to say is that it sucks that she doesn’t feel like she is allowed to shave her head because her body and her face do not fit some sort of mold that grants her this permission. What does this say about our expectation of ourselves and each other that we only allow a deviation from the “norm” if a certain number of boxes are already checked. What are we measuring ourselves against?

I want to have conversations about beauty and self love and fashion and self presentation that allow for the spiritual aspects of these things to come to light. I want to move beyond the conversations about what we are supposed to look like. I am tired of us deciding for each other what is appropriate to wear, whether or not it is okay for us to get botox or implants or wear a wig or shave our heads or not shave our armpits and our pubic hair. I want to talk about what beauty and self love and fashion and self presentation means to us if we were truly operating from the sovereignty of ourselves.

Some questions to consider:

Is there an aspect of your body that you or others have not been able to accept that you can decide to look at with love?

What would this love and appreciation look like?

How might this shift in perception change your level of comfort and confidence in the world?

In what ways can you bring your own multidimensional version of beauty to light?

What does beauty even mean to you?

 

 

 

 

 

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On Bouncing Back

I wrestle a little with an irritation when newly finished chemo gals are rushing to get their old selves back. I want them to just know that it takes patience and a lot of work and diving deep to get to where they are heading, maybe to get where I am. I want them to know that this thing is about rebirth. Things have been shaken up and are giving them the opportunity to expand.

But who am I to tell them this message? Everyone must do this in their own time. Everyone needs to go back and revisit. I think we all know we can not be that past version of ourselves again. But it is quite difficult to see the capacity for growth that we have when we are in a position of struggle. Striving for the old self will inevitably take us on a trip there, in whatever sense it may, on an energetic level perhaps. So maybe the striving to “bounce back”, is actually enacting an important part of the process. It’s a review period, dancing back and forth on the space time continuum to look at the past self from the lens of our current experience. And if our current experience is of one that “Wow life really sucks and is really hard,” the past might seem easier. OR we might see something in our past self that needs to be nurtured or protected in order to make it through what we are making our way through now.

It is like a combing of the inventory of your inner landscape. On each trip back, we bring something forth. We dust it off. We look at it. We see it, hear it, touch it, smell it. And we decide what to do with it. When I was a child my parents ran an auction business. We would go into homes of people who had more often than not just recently died, hired by the families to sort their estate and sell everything in it. I was amazed at the treasures we would find. Furniture, clothes,trinkets, books, instruments. We were sifting through a person’s history. We were assessing the worth of the relics of someone’s life. We would decide whether it was best to throw it away completely or to sell it. Repurpose. Reuse. Recycle. It’s the same when we go through the inventory of our inner landscape. The experiences that we have had, the memories stored in our bodies, the feelings we have felt, the lessons we have learned. All of the information is stored within and can be accessed with the mind. When we comb through it all, we get to ask the questions. Does this emotion want to stay in this part of my body? Does this lesson still make sense or does it need to be expanded on? Does this resentment still need to reside there? Is this fear still relevant? Is this belief system still relevant to what I have recently learned, accomplished, created?

I believe that spirit was not going to let me get away with “bouncing back”. There were certain things that needed to be burned to the ground in order to move forward on the path that I am supposed to be on. There was a rapid fire about it all, but it was rapid fire because it was time for me to change. If I were to have regained hair the way that I desperately wanted, or had I been able to have a child straight away after treatment, or had I gotten away with treatment unscathed by any other additional health issues, I would not have come to the same spiritual conclusions in the amount of time that I did. What seemed like too much, what I likened to getting punched repeatedly in the face by traumatic episodes that shook up every aspect of my security, livelihood and self sense, was actually a quick train to the other side of accepting and surrendering to the deep important truths of the soul.

Pride

Pride is

Giving myself permission to be.

It is creating my own reality.

It is breaking patterns.

It is deconstructing conditioning.

It is continuing to take one step, and then another, and then another, walking a path unpaved.

Pride is answering only to the divinity within me. It is finding and nurturing my own light when I could have dimmed it. It is staring into the face of discrimination with a steady gaze. It is choosing not to believe insistent suggestions that I am bad, wrong, possessed, evil, undeserving, foul, ill, perverted.

Pride is self emancipation. It is saying thanks but no thanks to a prescripted life. It is setting boundaries. It is self preservation. It is cutting ties that bind while carefully tending to all of the frayed edges and brokenness within.

Pride is personal responsibility.

Pride is personal.

Pride is tribal.

Pride is courage.

Pride is permission. Permission to be me.

In Nature’s Image

RuPaul said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Soul Sessions, the best advice he could give to the young ones, to the seekers, was “to know thyself”. This counsel befits me. Self study has been my salvation. I learn elemental details all the time. For days on end, uncomfortable clues trickle in that make me wiggle and squirm in my skin until I am willing to confront a kernel of truth. Then there are the big breakthroughs; The moments when all that binds is loosed and the tethering of my spirit comes undone. Those marvelous moments I simply feel free and clear and bright with the truth of who I am. In studying myself I give reverence to where I come from, what makes me tick. I don’t believe this path could result in anything but deep reverence for Nature. I have found that diving in is most satisfactory. When you follow each direction that you are led, you realize the dots all connect, and while the universe is vast, it is still all in the palm of your hand. Because you, me, it, We are one. We are all of it. The sun, the moon, the stars, the oceans the rivers the trees, the dirt, the shit, the joy, and the suffering. All of it at once.

Nature has a way of destroying what needs to die in order to clear fertile ground for what needs to be planted, cultivated, brought forth. I think I forgot that I am nature. I think cancer happened to me because I needed to regenerate. It was the framework in which I was made capable of setting fire to an old paradigm. Spirit knew that I wasn’t about to let go easy, and it knew the way to my heart. It knew what I held on to tightly, and everything that I hid behind. I needed to lose my hair to learn that I wasn’t my hair. It knew that my body needed to be changed for me to learn that I wasn’t my body. It knew what I had to give up in order for me to remember that all that I ever needed was to know myself. Spirit allowed me to stumble and wail suffer everything that I feared because it knew that it had me, it knew that it would buoy me as I followed the breadcrumbs back to myself.

At first, cancer made me afraid of self study because I could see and feel the real deterioration of my body as a result of the treatment. There was a period of separating from my bodily experience. In hindsight I believe that what was really happening was a separation of what I thought to be important in the mind body connection. Image was very important to me. It still is, but the importance has shifted, as I realize that it is only a reflection, not a definition. I have been enlightened to the social nuances of how my image allows me to experience the world. It is a more honest understanding that my image is a vehicle to reflect something that I want people to relate to in me. Once I had a grasp on that I had so much more freedom and control over my experience. I am not tied to any certain thing or way of looking or being anymore. I am not uncomfortable in the body that I am in, regardless of it’s shifts and perceivable flaws, as it does not define my spirit. I define how others see me; the creative control is all mine.

Regeneration is like a remembering. In my rebirth story, I scavenged for the seeds of the truth and grit of my soul. I learned to rely on my spirit to strengthen me when my body felt like a foreign land, the old one beyond recognition. When I shifted out of reckoning to revelling I was pulling up weeds and cutting back dried branches from my plant friends in my yard. In this act, I was struck so softly with the full acceptance of everything that I had been through. I was already on my knees but I stayed there and cherished the holy moment. When I was a little girl I knew that speaking to the Divine in silence was the same as speaking a prayer out loud. That Divine spark was so clear and faith so untampered with then. I remember now. Again.

I Remember the Moment

I remember the moment I fell in love with myself.

I had my weave on, and for those of you who don’t know, a weave is a word for tracks of hair sewn on to the existing hair on someone’s head. In my case, my weave consisted of several tracks of hair sewn onto the two inches of growth that I was able to have on the sides and back of my head, and then a closure on the top, which is basically a hair piece, like a toupee, where I am not able to grow any hair at all. I was home alone, witchin’ in the kitchen as I like to say. Candles lit, music blaring, hips swinging, spoon stirring. I was making myself some high vibe food and I was feeling pretty high vibe myself. My spirits SOARING, I marveled at the energy that I had been feeling for a couple of months. I felt a sexuality that I thought had been lost forever surging through my veins, my bones, my tissues. I felt alive in every cell. I felt like an exotic creature. I felt confident. I felt electric. I felt MAGICKAL. I marveled at how this “tool”, this simple weave, had facilitated so much transformation in the way I felt about myself. I loved having the absurdly long hair. I loved waking up in the morning with it. I loved being able to style it and wash it and blow dry it on my head. Most of all I loved that I was blending right in everywhere I went. I could stand out if I wanted to, but only if I tried. After walking around with my head shaved for three years it was refreshing not to be forced into conversations about why my head was bare every time I left my house.  My energy wasn’t all being funneled into supporting my confidence to move about the world with no hair. My nervous system felt soothed because I could concentrate on healing other wounds. Spoon in hand, I grinned from ear to ear. My soul was LIT UP. I laughed. I was FREE.

And suddenly like a puff of smoke, the bald woman beneath the ruse popped into my mind’s eye. As if she stood right before me in our kitchen,I saw clearly the face and the head of the person that I had come to be over the past three years. I saw the face of a woman who navigated through all the solutions of her hair loss. I saw the face of a woman who pulled out all the stops to come home to herself, despite it being difficult. I saw the face of a woman who wondered whether she would ever feel comfortable in her skin, who questioned whether she wanted to live in this skin at all. I saw the face of a woman who felt like she had died so many times that she couldn’t even keep up with who she was supposed to be. I saw the face of a woman who walked trial by trial with her head held high despite her desperate sadness and a chasm of grief within her.

I dropped my spoon into the boiling pot on the stove. I fell to my knees and my body shook with sobs. I cried to her, “My goddess, you are brave. You are wonderful. You are beautiful. Thank you for existing. Thank you for loving me. You have saved me. I love you.I love you.I love you.”

Intention and Attention

I have been taking a writers workshop that allows me to learn from some of the most renown spiritual writers. From a previously recorded lecture, the late Wayne Dyer happens to be one of the teachers I have access to. While I was listening to him talk recently, he said the number one piece of advice he would give not only to writers, but to anyone, is to simply “Pay Attention”. This sounded familiar. “Pay Attention” seemed to whisper to me from the ethers time and time again during my season of cancer treatment. Even in the moments where my senses were limited to what I could access from my bedroom or my backyard, I found that there was so much to pay attention to. I realized that despite the pain of what I was going through, I was able to access a lot of useful information and creative flow. There were thoughts and sensations from inside of my mind and my body that I could roll around with, observe, and interact with. I found that I could access memories with a sharper picture than I had been able to before. I could see and taste and hear the sensations of times past. In doing so, I could feel the joy and profound depths of meaning in the most mundane life experiences. Often I would feel immobilized by the medicines that were coursing through my systems and I would close my eyes and lay still and it was as if I could listen to my body dance from the inside. An intimacy with my inner landscape was created then. I felt like I was being given a chance to recalibrate the way I moved through the world and related to my body. I was realizing that I was growing and learning from these microcosmic details. It was in these moments that I heard the message, “Pay Attention”, and I set the intention to do so for the rest of my life.

I got to a point where I felt like my only option was to open and expand to the lessons my suffering had to teach me. Since I have dared to allow the thread of mystery to buoy me as I simply set an intention for healing, and then pay attention to what happens next, I have found a sense of being supported and guided. Suffering is so uncomfortable that we want to just alleviate it as quickly as possible. Happy is better than sad, we think, and pleasure is better than pain. But what I’ve found is that avoiding suffering at all costs is ineffective. I am not really growing when I force myself to be “positive” when I feel “negative” or numb my mind with my iPhone or my television just to get through the day. By avoiding, I keep myself stuck in cycles that will bring the problem back around. I have one theme of emotional suffering that has cycled through my life for over 20 years. Since I started applying the intention to learn from it coupled with paying attention to what comes up, the wound has shifted dramatically. I find that each time it cycles through, I am given another opportunity to see it another way. I ask myself questions like “How are you attached to this suffering? How does this wound keep you safe? What would change if this wound was completely healed? In what ways are you responsible here? What does this suffering have to teach you?” I dive deep and I pay attention. The work that I have done around this 20 year old wound has surprised me with delightful shifts in my own perceptions from defensiveness to compassion. I have been able to access bigger gains with each cycle of the recurring theme. These gains trickle into other areas of my emotional life, further shift my consciousness, illuminate further instructions, and heal another layer of the wound. These shifts encourage me to stay the course.A 20 year old wound will have spread other ailments to other areas of the body and psyche, and those must be addressed with time and patience (and more intention and paying attention). This work is challenging, but with practice becomes easier, and it never fails to be satisfying. I think of it as the kind of hard labor that you would put into an ambitious DIY home project. The kind where you can sit back at the end of the day feeling the best kind of tired, with a beer in your hand, gazing at your accomplishments.

My 20 year old wound is an emotional one that affects not only other corners of my emotional landscape, but manifested itself physically as well. On the flip side, I have a recurring physical wound, a shoulder injury. The pain and discomfort of it trickles into other areas of my physical body, but it manifests itself in emotional ways as well. When I started working with the intention to learn from my physical ailment. It looked something like this.

  1. Take stock of my shoulder injury along with the other sensations I was feeling in my body, such as panic, exhaustion and fear.
  2. Make a list and utilize the tools that were available to me. Acupuncture. Massage.Physical Therapy. Nutrition.Counseling.

 3. A conscious shift of perception. Learning from vs. Eliminating

4. Ask questions like “Why am I attached to this suffering? How does this suffering keep me safe? What is this suffering asking me to clear? What other time in my life does this suffering remind me of? What needs to be healed through this suffering?”

This practice seems to broaden what I am able to touch. When I free write about these questions,it inspires my willingness to do deeper work. Pain becomes my teacher. I see the fruits of my labor manifest on microcosmic levels of my psyche.

So much healing potential can be accessed from where you are right now, despite your situation.  I encourage you, as Wayne Dyer suggests, to simply “Pay Attention”.

Dream Life

I listen intently and I listen closely. I think about them until I can get to my notebook and pen, steadfastly hanging onto every thread that dances in the place between awake and unconsciousness. They are slippery to grasp. So many minor details are packed into the fold of them. In that elusiveness I try to memorize what I have just seen. I have asked spirit to speak to me in my dreams. I have a habit of spinning the images into signs that all is well, everything is healed, I have shed yet another layer, I can have relief and suffering is over! It is an old compulsion to have everything be neat and tidy. If I don’t chase it vigorously with my pen, I can consciously weave the story into a magical tale of how much I have overcome. Once it is down on the paper, fingers racing against my mind, the transcription exposes the truth. Without this dissection, I would not be able to catch those fleeing glimpses of sadness, regret and pain.

We plant seeds constantly. Some of them sprout and some of them never break ground. In my dream work I connect with the seeds that were planted that never sprouted. Like babies. And not just babies in general, but my babies. The babies that I had already given a shape to in my heart. I could make out their face and I had visions of them over and over, holding themselves up on the little window in my living room, looking out into the garden where the flowers bloomed and waved hello. I saw them sitting in the dining room floor with a little metal tray like the one I used to have with Wonder Woman on it, smearing their breakfast on their face and chattering to me as I did motherly things in the kitchen.

But let’s just say that like other somatic experiences, my body has in places clung tightly to this baby’s existence in any capacity that it could. That gritty textured ball of sand that calls for tender attention reveals itself in the burning pain in my lower back, the electric shooting pain in my uterus.

I no longer feel the tinge in waking life. I don’t feel defensive and angry when I interact with a new parent of a child. I am no longer jealous of the lens that they suddenly get to see the world through. There is not the slightest intellectual desire for my child that I had given a face to, but its little cells swim into my throat and loosen themselves through my tears. It is a sensation I can contract and expand with, and will bloom and then die, again and again, as I am just as sure that the healing of this story is as cyclical as all the others.

I can not bask in the light for long without acknowledging the shadows. Sitting in the shadows is not scary after all. In fact, it is cool and relaxing. Here, I am free to honor and connect with all of the rough and tender seeds that never see the sun. No one is looking. I am in a safe place of reckoning. All is well.